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The way too early 2012 starting lineup: Offense

Apr 24, 2012, 9:37 PM EST

Notre Dame Blue Gold Game

We’ve had our fifteen-window look heading at the 2012 Fighting Irish, culminating in Saturday’s spring football game. While the roster will see the infusion of 14 freshman this summer, let’s take a look at the way too early 2012 offensive depth chart, updating it with what we learned this spring.

OFFENSIVE LINE

With Braxston Cave spending most of spring recovering from a late season foot injury, the Irish trotted Mike Golic out as the center. Whether Golic stays in the starting lineup after Cave returns is likely up to guys like Tate Nichols, Christian Lombard, and Nick Martin.

The left side of the offensive line is rock solid with Zack Martin returning for his third tour of duty protecting the quarterback’s blind side and Chris Watt looking to build on an impressive season. With Cave the third member of this line that’s expected to play at a championship level, the two jobs that still need to shake out are the replacements for Trevor Robinson and Taylor Dever.

One thing we’ve learned this spring is that Christian Lombard has seized one of the jobs. Lombard, who the staff thought highly enough of last year to let Matt Romine walk with a fifth-year of eligibility remaining, is going to start the season in the starting lineup. Whether that’s at guard or tackle is likely up to Tate Nichols. Brian Kelly and Harry Hiestand have already decided that Lombard is one of the four best linemen on the team. If Nichols shows himself to be the fifth, and can handle the edge of the offensive line, the Irish should be set.

Early Projection for opening day:

Zack Martin, LT
Chris Watt, LG
Braxston Cave, C
Christian Lombard, RG
Tate Nichols, RT

Thoughts: This might be what I’m hoping for as opposed to what’s been decided because the first-string offensive line was featuring Lombard at tackle, with Golic and Nick Martin leading the battle at guard. That said, regardless of the physical improvements Golic has made, he’s still not the type of mauler that Nichols can be, and while Lombard will handle right tackle if needed, a road-grader like Nichols is a much better fifth starter than the physically limited Golic. In an ideal world, Golic turns into this season’s Andrew Nuss, a super-sub type that backs up the three interior positions. (That said, don’t be surprised if Nick Martin is the guy to beat at guard, with Lombard shifting outside.)

TIGHT END

A quick viewing of the Blue-Gold game gives you the feeling that Tyler Eifert will likely be a tight end by name only. Split wide, he’s the Irish’s top receiving threat. Paired with an inline blocker, it’s a mismatch waiting to happen. (Take a look at the deep post Eifert ran, it was a two-man route with Ben Koyack running the under route.) Even with Troy Niklas missing the spring’s final week with the flu and then concussion-like symptoms, he’s got to be the leader in the clubhouse to be the Irish’s top attached blocker.

Alex Welch, who had been passed by Ben Koyack last season, had a nice spring, fighting his way back into the mix and showing just how good the depth chart looks behind Eifert. Koyack is expected to do big things next season and into the future. Jake Golic, who along with Eifert is the elder-statesman of the group, reportedly has come down with mono, but he’ll likely only contribute on special teams.

Early Projection for opening day:

Tyler Eifert (never coming off the field)
Troy Niklas
Ben Koyack
Alex Welch
Jake Golic

Thoughts: Expect Eifert to play as many snaps as he can handle. I fully expect Niklas to become a weapon by the end of the season, and the Irish have taken a look at every snap of the New England Patriots’ tape to see how to use Eifert with Niklas, or whoever else can step up and make an impact. With plenty of two-tight sets, expect the top four on this depth chart to see plenty of playing time, and Golic do his best to get in the rotation.

OUTSIDE WIDE RECEIVER

If tight end is an embarrassment of riches, the outside receiver is quite the opposite. While John Goodman was voted most improved by the coaching staff this spring on the offensive side of the ball, believing that the fifth-year senior is ready to tap into all of his bottled promise is a leap I’m not yet willing to make. Same goes for Daniel Smith, who made it through spring practice healthy, and passes the eyeball test, but doesn’t look to be an explosive option. Davaris Daniels is the guy the Irish staff likely wants on the field, and might hope is flying under the radar. TJ Jones doesn’t look to have the physicality needed to be a top-flight outside wide receiver at this level (or at least he hasn’t shown it yet), but he’s taken a lot of snaps and needs to be a leader. Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson, not on campus until this summer, are true wildcards, with the staff believing Brown has the speed and athleticism to get on the field quickly. The loss of Luke Massa to a knee injury, after he looked good during spring drills, can’t help from a sheer numbers perspective either.

This is still a spread offense, regardless of how good the tight end depth chart is. The Irish are going to need two or three of these guys to be ready to go from day one, and the loss of Floyd, not to mention the late defection of Deontay Greenberry, will have Irish fans quickly wondering what could’ve been. That said, Mike Denbrock has done nothing but good things since he stepped back on campus, and he and Chuck Martin taking the reins of the passing game should open things up.

Early Projection for opening day:

Davaris Daniels
TJ Jones
John Goodman
Chris Brown
Daniel Smith
Justin Ferguson
Luke Massa (injured)
Andre Smith (walk-on)

Thoughts: This group doesn’t give you much confidence, but there is some talent here. Past numbers certainly won’t show that, but Goodman has a chance to be this season’s Jonas Gray, and Jones has shown flashes of being a starting-caliber player. While we’ll talk about the quarterback being a game manager, the Irish coaching staff will need to call the right game and play the best scheme to bring the most out of this group, as it’s not going to wow you with its athleticism.

SLOT RECEIVER

This is where we see the versatility of the Irish offense. On paper, there looks to be only Robby Toma currently on campus that plays the position. Davonte Neal, who was among the top recruited skill players in the country, could immediately make his mark, but he’ll need to learn the concepts and the playbook first. The same goes for KeiVarae Russell, who might be the forgotten man in this recruiting class, but someone people think could be a game-breaking talent. The versatility of the roster, where Tony Alford coaches both slot receivers and running backs, and Martin’s redesign of an offense that got way too vanilla last year, make this position a true mystery.

George Atkinson, Cierre Wood, and Theo Riddick all looked very good this spring, with the Irish running attack truly three-deep during the spring game. All three can play some version of slot receiver, with Riddick leading the team in catches during the scrimmage and Atkinson making some explosive plays in the passing game as well. We’ve only seen him with crutches, but the Irish believe they have another elite talent with Amir Carlisle, who dominated during the All-Star game circuit as a blue-chip recruit at wideout and was USC’s most versatile running back before transferring to South Bend.

It may be difficult to classify these guys correctly, but from this point going forward, who cares. The staff knows they are going to need to get the ball in their best players hands. How and where they do it will be fun to track.

Early Projection for opening day:

Robby Toma (could be a breakout player)
Amir Carlisle
Davonte Neal
George Atkinson
KeiVarae Russell

Thoughts: This group is going to be the most fun to watch. I could make a good argument that every guy listed here is going to have a huge season. The upside potential on all of these guys is tremendous and Chuck Martin is committed to finding interesting ways to get these guys touches. That’s all you can ask for.

RUNNING BACK

When Jonas Gray went down last season, the Irish’s biggest depth-chart deficiency on offense was revealed. With only freshmen Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson available as back-ups, Brian Kelly returned Theo Riddick to the backfield, where he’s stayed after looking natural at the position against Stanford and Florida State.

The addition of Amir Carlisle, the recruitment of Will Mahone and KeiVarae Russell, and the ascension of Atkinson this spring has turned this into one of the strongest positions on the Irish roster, and led to McDaniel getting reps with the depleted cornerbacks. Top-lined by returning starter Cierre Wood, the Irish can easily trot out four starting caliber running backs, before ever knowing what Mahone or Russell bring to the table.

With the balance of power in the offense tilted to running back and depth at tight end, expect all these guys — whoever is starting — to get carries.

Early Projection for opening day:

Cierre Wood
Theo Riddick
Amir Carlisle
George Atkinson
KeiVarae Russell
Will Mahone

Thoughts: The running game is going to power this offense. Call me crazy, but each of the top four guys listed could put up thousand yard seasons when you tally up rushing and receiving yards. That’s a scary proposition, especially when you know that Tyler Eifert is going to get his fair share of touches, too. For as much as people complain about the Irish’s weapons, this position grouping is definitely BCS caliber, and should remind Irish fans of the running game Lou Holtz used to trot out on the field.

QUARTERBACKS

Of course, it all is going to come down to the man behind center. The Blue-Gold game showed that the position battle, likely a three-man race between incumbent Tommy Rees and challengers Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix, is far from over. It might be so unresolved that it gives Gunner Kiel a chance to fight his way into it, too.

The spring game was a microcosm of all three starting candidates problems. Rees forced a ball into coverage and threw a bad interception. Hendrix locked on a receiver, never even noticing a dropping linebacker that was there to pounce, too. Both are mistakes that upperclassmen can’t make. Golson, who looked the best of the three, struggled to get the team in alignment quick enough, burning two timeouts in more than comfortable circumstances.

This battle could go any way before the Irish board the plane to Dublin. But as of now, here’s my gut on where things will end up.

Early Projection for opening day:

Everett Golson
Tommy Rees
Andrew Hendrix
Gunner Kiel

Thoughts: Chuck Martin will earn his salary, and likely his first major head coaching opportunity, if he can get this group to play up to its potential. Admittedly, this depth chart is based around what we saw during the spring game, and the coaching staff had 14 other opportunities to evaluate the position. During his postgame press conference, Kelly made it clear that Golson, while he looked good, needed to put in the time during voluntary workouts to win the job. Never one to shy away from playing multiple guys behind center, there’s a high likelihood that we’ll see three (and maybe even four) of these guys.

  1. nudeman - Apr 24, 2012 at 9:54 PM

    After the Stanford game, the various boards lit up with about 99% concurrence that AH would start the bowl game. Thought about it for a day or two, and I was the only person I remember saying “No, it will be Rees”. There is an affection that BK has for this guy that no one else understands.

    All I can think is that he feels “safe” with Rees. Maybe feels he can berate him into playing well. Beyond that, no explanation.

    You all missed it 4 months ago, and you’re missing it now.

    It will be Rees in Dublin.

    • domer77blowsgoats - Apr 24, 2012 at 10:46 PM

      Great. This is gonna be a brutally long summer of “I told you guys X months ago that TR…”

      Do we get to bring up all you wrong predictions at least?

      Ur pal Goat

    • bernhtp - Apr 24, 2012 at 10:56 PM

      I’m a BK fan, but I do fault him for not finding more playing time for Hendrix last year and developing him in several games where Rees played garbage time. Hendrix is physically gifted, but didn’t play in a high school system that prepared him for BK’s spread, and thus he has always been a project. It was clear by mid-season that Rees was not progressing and we needed an option B after having dis’ed Crist.

      While I ultimately trust BK to put the right guy on the field, I really can’t imagine that the right answer is Rees. I would like to see an open competition between Golson and Hendrix – each has both warts and electric moments – and a starter named by mid August. The #2 should get good minutes in at least the first two games (should win by comfortable margins) to keep the competition warm and a backup ready as we get into the meat of the season.

    • joeschu - Apr 25, 2012 at 6:44 AM

      I agree completely. There seems to be some odd connection/affection that is challenging to explain. It just doesn’t make sense to me why BK “falls back” to Rees and the comfort and safety of a guy who gets plays off quickly (most times), vs. getting the right guy ready. The “deficiencies” he sees in the top guy seem to be coaching points, not limitations.

      All that being said, I’m going to try this optimism thing out for a second and say that EG will get the nod. If that’s the case, expect Hendrix to be the backup, not Rees. Hendrix doesn’t cause any “alternative package” issues. He can run the same sets as EG without changing the focus of the playbook. I truly hope the days of “alternative packages” are finally over. We need to focus on hanging on to the damn ball more than dividing the playback to account for some (one) QB’s “limitations.”

    • jrct2450yahoo - Apr 25, 2012 at 9:43 AM

      If you are right, and I think you are, look for a 7 and 5 year. With their schedule you can’t be successful with such a glaring weakness at QB.

    • jimbasil - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:46 AM

      Hate the thought, but there is merit to the statement. Pointed out by Keith, the RB stable is a good one (could be a great one or at least very strong) and because of that, “safe” QB play maybe what is being looked or thought of (nothing could be further from the truth. TO does not = safe QB play.) rather than living or dying with the growing pains – plugging in EG or AH. The coaching staff may see the OLine as more than strong enough (a very good OLine at that) to withstand the Tommy effect. Hand off, hand off, hand off, short pass to Eifert; hand off, hand off, short pass to Eifert… Just not good enough.

      I just don’t see how it can be ignored, TO is missing all the physical tools to get the offense to its potential. He slows it down, he doesn’t see the field, he has next to zero escapability (and will fumble if he is touched) and is INT prone. These aren’t good passes intercepted either, they’re direct throws to the Defense.

      Why take a sports car and turn it into a family wagon. (albeit a sports car with some unknown factors)

      Here’s hoping EG or AH.

      • ndfan4ever - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:06 AM

        Look if you can run the football you can win period. Look at Alabama last year freshman QB awsome running game 2 tight end sets most of the time. Short passing plays and they win a national championship. There is the model we need to focus on. To many times last year Kelly called pass plays when we should have run and they cost us. This year we need to run more and pass less. If EG starts next year we will be less than 500 to many tough teams to face with no experience. He looked good in spring game but again no pressure no rush and playing against a defense he has seen don’t get too excited. Only way we win if EG starts is to run the ball and don’t put him in positions like Kelly did last year that made QB throw when we didn’t need to. Forget the spread run run and make short good controllable passes play good defense and we win. Start throwing the ball all over the yard and we lose just like last year. Go Irish

      • jimbasil - Apr 25, 2012 at 1:07 PM

        well, ndfan4ever

        Last year, when was it ND figured out it had two running backs? As far as Alabama is concerned, they were able to pass the ball effectively when passing making their run game even more effective, something ND failed to do on a regular basis. Bama’s front line –

        LT Cyrus Kouandjio (0 starts) 6-6, 322 pounds

        LG Chance Warmack (26) 6-6, 320

        C Barrett Jones (36) 6-5, 302

        RG Anthony Steen (11) 6-3, 303

        RT D.J. Fluker (22) 6-6, 335

        Totals/average: 95 starts, 6-5.2, 316.4

        ND’s OLine is talented and should be good, but the passing game needs to be effective and it needs to be mobile. Yes, Kelly called some very Weis plays last year and in his first year. He also didn’t know his talent as well as he should have. Like Nude says (hate to give him credit) but BK has too much affection for TR when it comes to the QB position. That needs to change.

    • dickasman - Apr 25, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      I was one of those calling for Dr. Hendrix. Pure frustration from lack of arm strength from TR. I don’t care which 22 they put out there. JUST WINNNNNNNNNN BABYYYYYYYY JUUUUUUUUUST WINNNNNNNNNNNN!!!

      I totally agree with Keith’s starters including the omission of Goodwoman.(Keith showed some good sized balls here because god knows nd rats loooove any white football player whether they can play or not)

    • bb90grad - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      Nude,

      Gave you a thumbs up for your assessment, not because it’s what I want to happen.

      I have asked on several posts here “what is so hard about BK’s system that several years (and in one case a premed mind) can’t grasp it?” No one has answered in X’s and O’s. My feeling is it’s so hard only because it’s been made that way. I don’t understand why using an offense built around your available talent pool is somehow settling for second best in BK’s eyes.

      I have read all the pros and cons on the blog and am tired of the endless analysis of all 4 QB candidates. A random synapse fired today and I went back and reread (Feb 18, 2010) BK’s use of Maslow and 4 stages of development.

      From Friday’s Observer: “When Everett got here a year ago, it was the unconscious incompetence. He didn’t know that he didn’t know,” Kelly said. “He’s grown to a conscious competence but it’s so hard for him every day to be that guy. He will do it, we just wish it was sooner.” Ironically, his comment on TR was just that he turned the ball over too much.

      By this metric, TR is stuck Stage 3 too.

      Last plug for Everett: winging it is a skillset. A relative unknown winged it about 2 weeks ago at Augusta and walked away with a green jacket. Wasn’t pretty but doesn’t make the jacket any less green.

      • Keith Arnold - Apr 25, 2012 at 7:27 PM

        @bb90grad — There is nothing overly complex about the offense. The problems people are putting on Hendrix come from the fact that he came up in a very rudimentary offense.

        Hendrix knows the offense backward and forward. From what I’ve heard he studies it on flashcards and can recite the playbook. To say that he’s slow to learn things is a misrepresentation of the truth.

        Where he’s lacking is the ability to take that knowledge and seamlessly apply it on the field. It’s understandable considering he spent his freshman season redshirting and getting to know an offense that’s light-years more complex than the one he ran in high school, and most of his sophomore season running as the No. 3 QB behind Tommy and Dayne.

      • bb90grad - Apr 26, 2012 at 1:10 PM

        Thanks for the explanation Keith. Clear and cogent as usual. I’m an architect; sometimes you gotta draw me a picture.

        Would it be fair to say EG, AH and TR are all at Maslow’s Stage 3, consciously competent but struggling every day for performance to come as second nature?

        Love the site, keep up the good work.

    • ndmick - Apr 26, 2012 at 11:05 AM

      Nudeman, don’t see BK leaving the season in TR’s hands to start. This team needs someone making plays, not managing the game too the point he loses it with turnovers….TR does not win games, he loses them.

  2. ndfairfax - Apr 24, 2012 at 10:15 PM

    Keith:

    Two comments:
    1. It seems like the game breakers /athletes are in the slot-RB group. What are the chances that we get the best guys on the field rather than guys based on their designated position? Riddick, Wood, Toma, Eifert and Nicklas for example as a combination then rotate in Carlisle, Daniels and Jones.
    2. Do you think Rees is #2 because he is “safe”?

    Isn’t time we move past safe? With a solid running game, doesn’t life get easier for either AH or EG because they will have to throw less? Also, if a play breaks down they can make something happen, whereas Rees is a sitting duck.

    • gtizzo - Apr 25, 2012 at 12:47 AM

      Yes Rees is a safe number 2, he is the only number 2. Assuming Golson is your starter that leaves Hendrix and Kiel does either of them appeal more then Rees? Kiel is freshman and Hendrix has played very little…and Hendrix didn’t look all that great in the spring game either. The reason you start Golson isn’t because of his arm, it is his ability to run in the open field. Makes him hard to blitz and teams have to account for him in the back field. Then you put Eifert outside and add a small army of slot receivers to the mix and the defense is in trouble. No corner can cover Eifert (to big) and linebackers are going to have a hard time with the ND slot receivers.

      • 1historian - Apr 25, 2012 at 9:48 AM

        Golson is the 1st of Kelly’s QB recruits, which tells me that Kelly recruited him specifically for the kind of offense that Kelly likes.

        He gives Kelly a heart attack, which is one of the things that rookies do, but it is not the ONLY thing they do. IMO he brings a spark to the offense that the others clearly don’t, and Kelly should name him the starter. Of course he’s going to make mistakes, but Rees, who is more experienced makes what seems like more than his share of mistakes, as does Hendrix, they both have a year on Golson and they are not Kelly recruits.

        If not now when?

  3. ndfairfax - Apr 24, 2012 at 10:15 PM

    Keith:

    Two comments:
    1. It seems like the game breakers /athletes are in the slot-RB group. What are the chances that we get the best guys on the field rather than guys based on their designated position? Riddick, Wood, Toma, Eifert and Nicklas for example as a combination then rotate in Carlisle, Daniels and Jones.
    2. Do you think Rees is #2 because he is “safe”?

    Isn’t time we move past safe? With a solid running game, doesn’t life get easier for either AH or EG because they will have to throw less? Also, if a play breaks down they can’t they make something happen, whereas Rees is a sitting duck.

  4. ndnut - Apr 24, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    I remember a time when Theo Riddick was used as a WR, and I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give him a few more reps than the number of “el zippo.”

  5. bogtrottin - Apr 24, 2012 at 10:38 PM

    i have a feeling mr. nude may be right about rees, but i hope he’s wrong & it’s golson. that guy just feels like a player. he may need the actual game reps to get his rhythm & learn to do it at this level, so could well be that 2012 is the golson training camp, and we need to look to 2013 realistically. but i hope not. i also think the combo of the slots & the backs & the TEs is going to be exciting – if only we can get the ball to them sufficiently, and not make the kind of QB errors of late. really feels like we’re right on the cusp…or not…as has been the same feeling i’ve had for the past few years.

  6. cpfirish - Apr 24, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    Robby Toma I think is goin to have a big year. I see Toma making the great catch on third down’s. And making big plays in the big games.. And yes Eifert will have a huge season also! Golson may not be the starter against navy but he will be the starter against purdue in our home opener.! He will seperate himself from the others he just needs some live game reps to settle in. really the only two games we SHOULD have troubles with is OU and USC.. Once Golson steps it up then I really dont think TR will see the field much..! BK now is your time lets go!

  7. brazilianirish - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:49 AM

    Chuck Martin will speed up the tempo in this third year of Kelly´s offense. Look the guy, he thinks fast, he talks fast. Exactly what Brian Kelly expects of his players and staff.

    Supposing that can happen, what QB do you think will better handle this kind of tempo ??

    Well, Tommy still has the fast delivery of the group. Everett is the runner. However, in a continuous two-tight set along the year, Tommy may be an option. The vertical game is behind us this year, left in Cryst-Floyd duo expectations last fall. The wideouts aren´t a force yet.

    I would love watch Everett or Hendrix now, but I think Tommy will start the season. Finish it ?? Not so sure.

    Last kick: Kelly may prefer Tommy, but I think Martin prefers Everett…

  8. 9irish - Apr 25, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    Regarding this QB debate. In my lifetime, you had Joe Theismann, Tom Clemens, Kiel and a few others, Joe Montana, a few others, etc etc. My favorites from my primetime were Tony Rice and a forgotten guy named Kevin McDougal (1993). This obsession with college QBs ending up being pro-MVPs needs to go away. Tony Rice was such a smart, slashing, passing QB it was unbelievable. The NFL wanted nothing to do with him (then..now, might be different) Everybody looks too far ahead. Find the guy that works in college football at ND right now.

    • mtb1996 - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:50 PM

      I loved Kevin! That season was my first year at Notre Dame. And KM I think only went on to play in the CFL, right? Although the final outcome sucked, watching him sling it to Mays for a 22 point comeback in like 8 minutes at the end of the BC game was “almost” the best game I ever saw.

      • 9irish - Apr 26, 2012 at 2:50 AM

        that was a good year! just that one damned field goal…

  9. tony34343434 - Apr 25, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    With a double Tight End set like New England uses, and Toma can play the role of Wes Welker, we can base our offense on New England, we just need the QB to deliver the ball, like most on here i would like Golson, we need a QB that can run. College QB’s that have won can run the ball, Cam Newton, Teebow etc. I am nervous we will take a step back with Golson since he has no experience, Rees has more experience, maybe keep the routes and passes short and make the easy throws. Make things less complicated.

    • ndfan4ever - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      If you look at New England Brady can’t run and they win. Look at Alabama last year QB couldn’t or didn’t run and they win NC game their offense was like New England too. You don’t need a running QB to win that is crazy talk. Run the ball 2 tight end sets a short passing game with Eifert being a miss match for anyone and Toma as the slot there will be no need to throw the ball 30 or 40 times a game or throw the ball over 15 yards ever. Good clean short routes and run the ball and play soild defense.

      • tony34343434 - Apr 25, 2012 at 12:09 PM

        i respectfully disagree with your points. First we DO NOT have qa quarterback like Tom Brady nor does anyone. i do believe a college quarterback DOES need to run the ball. Alabama won nothing on offense, they had one of the greatest defenses in history, that is why they won. I assume you want Tommy Rees to play then? As i have said i would be fine with Rees he has lots of experience.

      • jimbasil - Apr 25, 2012 at 1:30 PM

        Again, is ND running the same system as Bama?

        However, somehow I don’t think Kelly likes to win as much as he likes the struggle to win. Just an opnion. I hope I’m wrong. I think this team should dominate many of their opponents and they flat out barely escape. Why? It’s obvious Kelly is a good X and O guy and knows his stuff. There is a ton of talent at ND. ND should not escape the Wakes and Marylands when those teams are not all that strong.

  10. yaketyyacc - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    well, you re right caling yourself “nudeman”. you lay the “bare” facts right on the table. Yes, it will be rees. It seems that Rees has the mental ability to grasp the full system, while not possessing the necessary talent to execute it. It seems both Hendrix and Golson have the necessary talent, but donot possess the mental ability to run the full system, ergo, disguising this lack by saying the number of plays was limited to give all quarterbacks an even chance. What does it tell you when with this reduced number of plays, Golson still had two delay of game calls?
    It doesn’t seem to be a question of which quarterback. More, a question of a cmplete quarterback. and we do not have one. Gunner, Gunner work hard.

  11. nudeman - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    1. Now that the glow of EG’s B&G game performance has worn off, it is painfully obvious that NO ONE is prepared to lead this team. They all have glaring deficiencies. EG: Fumbles snaps, can’t even get guys lined up in time; AH: Just awful field vision; TR: Everything; and GK isn’t ready.

    2. So who is to blame for this? Has to be BK. His fixation with TR, playing him even in garbage time as bern said has us left with 3 guys: one has never taken a snap, the other has taken too few, and the third has taken too many and just can’t play the game.

    3. The first real test will be against Michigan, game 3. That isn’t THAT far away, especially if BK wastes a bunch of time in August making sure everyone gets their share of snaps.

    4. I friggin’ guarantee the Paper Boy will be the starter in Dublin. For BK, TR is like the old girlfriend who rags you constantly, is just OK in bed, but once in a while cooks a decent meal. You know you SHOULD dump her, and you know eventually you WILL. But for now, you know you can get through a couple more days without your head exploding. So you hang in there. That’s BK and Tommy.

    • jimbasil - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:56 AM

      For the Navy game, Navy is well known for their pace and their possession drives. Every down counts and BK is not going into the game without knowing he can put points on the board on every possession. He’ll be “safe” as you aptly pointed out.

      Navy will option, option, option, option, option – pass its way down the field and if the CB’s aren’t ready, this will be a long game. Nix and Schwenke will be the key to the success of the Irish game when it comes to stopping the Navy attack.

      TR will be the guy, sad to say.

      • bernhtp - Apr 26, 2012 at 10:35 AM

        Navy’s possession drives were very short this past season. I don’t expect them to do better this year. They’ve lost some important players and Notre Dame’s defense will be better, especially relative to an offense that passes little.

      • dmac4real - Apr 26, 2012 at 10:58 AM

        Bern: I find it very hard to say the defense will be better. We lose: Johnson, Flemming, Lynch, Cwynar, Smith, Gray, Blanton. That is a lot of 2 deep guys were losing there. Its going to be hard to improve on that.

    • bernhtp - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:51 AM

      I disagree. Implicit in your analysis is that BK doesn’t see what everyone else does, is otherwise an idiot, and/or has some inexplicable psychopathology. This is untrue.

      I believe Kelly is hoping and working toward one of the others with more athletic ability and versatility to step up to the job. Hendrix and Golson need to address their more egregious issues that keep them off of the field. If TR starts – which I doubt – it will not be cause BK has some weird Tommy Rees fetish soon to be described in DSM IV, but because the other guys haven’t worked their way into being ready.

      Prediction: TR will not get the majority of snaps in the Navy game.

      • vegasmark - Apr 25, 2012 at 1:09 PM

        Thumbs up for the DSM reference!

      • jimbasil - Apr 25, 2012 at 1:18 PM

        Noone called BK an idiot, but we do question his play calling and thinking process.

        Reasons -> We know BK didn’t kick the FG vs Tulsa, when everyone knew (even Tulsa) the correct play was to get the FG and not suffer your Freshman QB (a complete unknown) to throw the TD which was an INT. Not 20-20 hindsight.

        Sending AH into the fray without adequate reps in prep for the Stanford game and misusing AH in the FSU game along with the bone headed calls in the FSU game offense and defense. Just the fact ND was slowed by TR which was obvious all season and not have AH ready to take over shows we can question BK’s thoughts.

        The other guys won’t be game ready if they don’t play in games. TR should only see snaps in games if the others are too crippled to play.

      • nudeman - Apr 25, 2012 at 3:08 PM

        I did not call him an idiot and don’t think he is.

        But on the QB thing, after 2 years he’s shown terrible judgment. Look at his comments; he’s scared to death to play Golson. A “heart attack”? Come on. TR will give you a stroke.

        It’s like he’s afraid to fail. Someone – Martin, Diaco, Hiestand, SOMEONE – needs to grab BK by the lapels, shake him and snap his ass out of his TR delusions.

      • bernhtp - Apr 25, 2012 at 8:03 PM

        You picked my door #3. I largely disagree, but do cede the point that the first two games last year ending in inexplicable losses because of all of the turnovers led to a strangely conservative bent in his psyche. Of course, Tommy is only the conservative choice to those that don’t notice the explosive vest he’s wearing.

        I still think that one or more of the other guys will step up and ultimately win the job. I’m not as pessimistic as you are.

  12. bearcatirishfan - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    Look guys I appreciate the comments, but if you really think a guy is going to deviate from an offense they have run for 20 years it’s just not going to happen. I think it will be modified to use the tight ends more, but it will still be the spread. All this speculation about a NE style offense is pointless. I do think you will see more run, and 2 or 3 tight end formations.

    • dmac4real - Apr 26, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      Kelly hasnt been running the spread for 20 years. The full spread didnt really fully develope until about 10 years ago when Urban was at Utah.

  13. fnc111 - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    I’ve been all over the boards saying it as well. It will be Rees starting for the next two years with Golson coming in to do some tebowing from time to time. A lot like what scUM did in 2009 with their QB situation. When Kelly trashed Crist at halftime of the usf game he was picking Rees for the long haul. Rees will be the reason Kelly gets fired after four years. BK is toooo stubborn to admit a mistake and or he has no eye for talent when it’s comes to picking a QB.

  14. joeschulz - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    Golson is clearly the guy at QB. If necessary you simplify his job to get him on the field with the ball in his hands. Unlike Rees or even Hendrix (my second choice) his is good enough that his good plays will overcome any errors. He and Atkinson may be heart attacks for the coach, but, unlike Tommy, they will win more games than they lose. The rest of the offense, perhaps with 3 tight ends on the field at the same time, can destroy any college opponent so long as the QB is a first rate point guard. In high school Golson was just that, a first rate point guard. If he can’t adjust to the Kelly system, the Kelly system should adjust to him. You may want a scientist; but what you have is an artist. Go with it.

    • nudeman - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:09 PM

      Are we talking about who SHOULD be the QB?
      Or who WILL be the QB?

      It SHOULD be anybody but the Paper Boy. Preferably Golson
      But it WILL be the Paper Boy.

      I read Pete Sampson say the other day that, based on his closeness to the program, off the record conversations, etc “If the game was tomorrow, Rees would start”.

      So it’s simple: If BK would STILL start the Paper Boy after the USC, Stanford, FSU and Blue & Gold game where he was clearly the worst QB on the field just a few days ago, then nothing that happens between now and Sept 1 is gonna’ change that.

      TR could show up in a body cast, and BK would still justify putting him out there.

    • bb90grad - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      Agreed.

      To bernhtp above, BK is NOT an idiot and DOES NOT see what everyone else does; he sees way more than we will ever.

      Perhaps there is too much information for BK to cull through in making a QB decision.

      Perhaps there is too much information for EG to cull through to get plays in on time.

      I don’t get it sometimes. At the end of the day, it’s just football, not brain surgery or quantum physics. Just do what it takes to win games.

      The rest is white noise.

  15. ndgrad62 - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    With a big experienced front line and a shedhouse of running backs it’s going to be 70% run and 30% pass this year with a focus on ball control and short passes. Maybe a long airmail to Eifert when their D moves up. Chew up the clock and let our fresh defense smother their offense. I know, not BK’s style.

    • jimbasil - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:33 PM

      Long air-mail to Eifert. I guess then you have EG or AH at the helm.

      BK ran a fairly even system as far as Run to Pass last year.

  16. joeschulz - Apr 25, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Personally I haven’t given up on Kelly. He is trying to get all the QBs to work hard when the coaches aren’t around. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t see what the rest of us see. Choosing before they come back in the fall is counterproductive. The losers, and maybe the winner, take their foot off the gas pedal. That would be a very bad outcome. The question is whether he makes the right choice (choices if we include the backup) before the games start to count. I think he will. He just wants Golson to be the whole package. If that happens the ND record won’t be 8-5 or even 10-3. If Golson can develop the whole package few, if any, of their opponents have a chance. If he remains an artist only, 10-3 is still a reasonable possibility.

    • 9irish - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:24 PM

      I agree with that. The thing is like a Corvette with stolen spark plugs. If they get this thing figured out, they can go very, very far.

  17. fnc111 - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    Ndgrad62 is right on with how the offense will be run. I think AH and Golson will both run some wildcat too and TR obsessed coach Kelly will limp to the finish line again trying for 8 wins- his goal. It will be a lot of simple pass plays and getting the ball in space to guys like Amir, Theo and Neal because we know TR can’t go downfield. If Jonas had another year left it could work but just handing off to Cierre with that stud O Line could tire him out. Have to find a second RB that won’t be a turnover machine.

  18. hbmichael9 - Apr 25, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    Hey guys – long time reader and just starting to get in on the commenting. Hopefully you will come to recognize me as a regular contributor.

    On the RBs, I for one am surprised to see little to no articles or much press in these long articles around Cierre Wood. The guys is solid and when is the last time we have had a 1,000 yard rusher returning? He seems to be overlooked because of lack of questions at that position and with him specifically.

    Also, I must be higher on GAIII than most. Of course we are always enamored with what “could be” but expecting a true freshman or transfer who was not a superstar to be better than what we have seen with our own eyes (albeit in limited action).

    • irish4006 - Apr 25, 2012 at 7:01 PM

      I am not a big Cierre fan. Ok, let me re-phrase – I don’t think Cierre can win us games on his own, although he is amazing when used in a one-two combo. His production dramatically improved (stats-guru types can correct me if I am wrong) when Jonas started playing strong. Every time Jonas touched the ball, there was a possibility that something big would happen. I had a feeling that the season ended for us when he went down. If GA III, Amir, Keith, Nude or anyone can step up and play the role Jonas did, we will be in great shape. If not, I am afraid we will be in the same puddle we were in Stanford, FSU, Michigan games.

      I am all for armchair coaching with the talks about great running game, two/three TE sets, safe/short passes and winning games; it will only happen if the running game is as good as the Jonas/Cierre combo we saw during the little winning streak we put together in the middle of 2011 season. Even Tommy didn’t look too bad in those games… :-)

      • dmac4real - Apr 26, 2012 at 11:05 AM

        Not true. Cierre tore it up against USF and UM, when Jonas Gray was used very little. Cierre Wood is a very good back, and quite possibly tied with TE for the most talented offensive player. We were not in a puddle against michigan running game wise; Cierre has like 130 yards.

  19. turknd - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    I can’t believe it is April and almost everybody is thinking TR will be starting this upcoming season. It is clear that EG and AH had a better B&G game than did TR, but did you think that Kelly would admit that? Especially w/ the AH interception and the mismanagement of the clock and ball fumbling of the ball w/ EG. Clearly more work is needed w/ those two, however that can be rectified and the upside is bigger. The shortcomings of TR can’t be rectified.

    BK is not going to show us his hand to us, or to EG nd BK so they can keep progressing.

    (I hope I’m right)

    Sorry if I had any mispellings Nude.

  20. fnc111 - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    Turk doesn’t understand BK is obsessed with TR. 6-6 and no one will be talking about all he does is win anymore but we still all have to suffer through the taunts at work everyday when turnover Kelly teams disappoint us again.

    • dmac4real - Apr 26, 2012 at 11:08 AM

      By no means am I going to say TR is amazing, but your underestimating the team with 6-6. Look at the losses last year. 2 bcs teams. 1 top 5 team that was on probation so it couldn’t be ranked. Another was top 5 to start the season and has obvious potential. Its not like Tommy Lose to shitty teams. Those were all quality teams. We can still go 8-4 with TR. Go ahead everybody, thumbs down, but you know im partly right. That said, get EG on the field asap.

  21. madmick69 - Apr 26, 2012 at 1:39 AM

    I’m thinking that everybody missed the big picture here. TR just became Dayne Crist…if he starts in Dublin, he’ll be on a very short leash. First sign of trouble or the first bone head interception that he throws (14 of them last year) and either EG or AH will find their way onto the field. Believe me when I say that Golson is the man and should get the nod. Based off what I saw in the B/G game, Golson was the only one who could move the offense consistently. He has game management issues but TR took a delay of game penalty too. Golson seems to make the right decision with the ball more times than not. Things just seemed to click with him in the huddle. The bottom line is that BC deployed the perfect defense against Kelly’s offense and Stanford duplicated, they both knew that TR is not a threat to run the ball. Play the run first and drop seven or eight into coverage. If any team decides to take a page from last years games and use this scheme then the QB is going to have to be a threat, while Hendrix can run, Golson is the dynamic runner, dynamic QB. Short of the long is that if TR has a bad half, he’ll know what it was like to be Crist last year.

    • nudeman - Apr 26, 2012 at 1:14 PM

      I agree with everything you wrote except that TR is the new DC.
      No … he’s still BK’s Paperboy.

      If I asked you if TR should have come in after one half aginst USF, you would have said “hell no”. But he did.
      If I asked if he should have been pulled vs. Pitt, you’d have said “yes”. But he wasn’t
      Same with USC.
      Same with FSU. In fact most believed there was no way he’d even start that game. But he did.
      If I asked you if he shouldhave been the Spring game starter, you’d have said “F no”. But he was.

      So see? There’s no logic here.

      • dmac4real - Apr 26, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        “If I asked you if TR should have come in after one half aginst USF, you would have said “hell no”. But he did.”

        81,000 people cheered “Hell yes” when TR was announced as the second half starter against USF. I was there. DC was that bad that game.

  22. ndgoldandblue - Apr 26, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    If nude is right with his prediction that Rees is going to the starter next season, then that means three things are, most likely, true: 1) Hendrix isn’t the man, and he is never going to be the man. After two full seasons and a spring and fall practice, if the guy hasn’t shown that he can be a starting QB over Rees, he will never be. 2) Golson just doesn’t get it. There is no reason why a quarterback who ran a spread offense in high school shouldn’t be able to pick up a similar offense in college. If Golson doesn’t beat out Rees, it’s because he doesn’t get the offense or he doesn’t get that he needs to learn the offense properly. You just can’t wing it and bank on your athleticism in college. 3) Kelly already thinks that Kiel is the future. By staying with Rees, Kelly could be preparing Gunner to take over the reins immediately afterward instead of waiting for another quarterback to be the man. If number three is correct, then I do have hope for the future because, out of all of these guys, I truly believe that Gunner will be the best quarterback. He may be even better than some of our recent QB’s (Quinn, Clausen). If so, the future looks bright.

    • dmac4real - Apr 26, 2012 at 11:10 AM

      “You cant just wing it and bank on your athleticism in college”—–Denard Robinson disagrees with you.

      • bb90grad - Apr 26, 2012 at 1:04 PM

        and Michael Vick. Didn’t he just last season say “I guess I need to start learning how to read defenses”? Either totally tongue in cheek or on par with Jessica Simpson’s Chicken of the Sea comment. Don’t know which…

  23. bearcatirishfan - Apr 26, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    That darn field goal was my first game ever at nd stadium was only 13. Great comeback though. Beat BC THIS YEAR BOYS I don’t care who starts.

    Yes I’m still bitter

  24. bearcatirishfan - Apr 26, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    Denard also plays in the weak division of the small 10. Seriously they play nobody. Only two quality teams they played nd should have lost mich state did loose. Anyone else think that the big 10 is severely overrated at this point.

    • dmac4real - Apr 26, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      He tore us up two years in a row. The kid can fly and he was the reason they won. He is good.

  25. ndnphx - Apr 26, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    With all the talent accumulating at RB/Slot, we’re finally seeing the offensive “system” BK is building. Big plays are to come from RBs/Slot guys making guys miss and breaking tackles, with the TE (or WR) the third-down/key play go-to guy. Verticality is lacking, save for the occasional shot downfield to keep the defense honest and hope to create some space for the rest of the offense. We don’t have a true vertical threat on the roster anyway.

    Hence, the insistence on TR. Supposedly reads quick, makes good choices, gets the ball out in a hurry and on time. Except he doesn’t, not at all consistently. The other guys have to fit into that mold, though, before they take his job away. No matter the upgrade in skill sets they all possess, especially EG.

    As for installing the New England offense, fine. Except the reason it works so well for the Patriots is that they rarely make mistakes. Not so sure how that’ll play out with us…

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